Ask Joan: Social connections affect how we age
April 29, 2024

Q. My father made it a point to attend church and a men’s study group every week for as long as he was able. I always admired his dedication to his faith and his friends, and it made me realize that I might need to do a bit more of that myself. It’s sometimes hard to motivate myself to go out after a long day or follow through with plans to socialize, but I suspect it’s probably good for me. What do you think?

AgeSpan CEO
Joan Hatem-Roy

A. Your father sounds like he was a wonderful inspiration! In our busy lives, it’s easy to stay in or turn down invites from friends and family. However, you are right. Getting out and spending time with others is good for us, and it may even help slow down the effects of aging.

We have all heard having a balanced diet, getting regular sleep, exercising, avoiding those extra pounds, and not smoking help us avoid chronic conditions and promote healthy aging.

Now, thanks to research, we know being connected to others influences how well we age.

A 2019 long-term study of people at midlife found that social connectedness and not smoking were two powerful indicators for “successful aging.” The study defined successful aging as being free of several different diseases, such as heart disease and depression, having no physical or cognitive impairment, and being engaged in activities such as paid or volunteer work and attending religious, cultural, or sporting events at least once a month.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure what it is about social connection that improves our health and wellbeing, but studies have shown that older adults who have the support of friends and family can have lower blood pressure, reduced mortality rates, and higher cognitive functions.

This doesn’t mean you need to suddenly become a social butterfly, but it might mean making that overdue phone call to a family member, saying yes to more of those invites from friends, or joining that book club you keep putting off.

It’s fine to have alone time, and some days we need that! But it’s clear that spending time with others is good for the body and soul. The connections we have with others benefit us in many ways and those we spend time with – regardless of age.

Your dad serves as a wonderful role model as you explore making connections. Social support comes in many forms, so find what works for you.

Are you caring for an older adult or need help finding healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at You can also call 800-892-0890 or email

Joan Hatem-Roy is the chief executive officer of AgeSpan.

First published in the Eagle-Tribune

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